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Updated: March 4th, 2012 10:08pm
Wild blanked again as Western Conference free-fall continues

Wild blanked again as Western Conference free-fall continues

by Jess Myers
1500ESPN.com
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - All Jamie McGinn needed was a week, and a new team, to find a way to beat the Minnesota Wild.

Last Sunday McGinn was held scoreless for the San Jose Sharks in the Wild's 4-3 win. On Monday, McGinn was traded to the Colorado Avalanche, and on this Sunday, McGinn recorded his first multi-goal game as the Avs blanked the free-falling Wild 2-0.

Seymon Varlamov stopped everything the Wild sent his way, save for a second period Dany Heatley blast that clanked off the crossbar, as the Wild's offense continued to no-show. Minnesota has now been shut out in back-to-back home games for the first time since February 2002.

"Tough start, and we don't seem to have the ability lately to bounce back from that," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "Too many tough starts like this."

The skinny

Again, Yeo sounded like a man who has run out of answers, especially frustrated with yet another slow start by his team. The Wild responded with plenty of pressure on Varlamov later, but got nothing to show for it after digging yet another early hole.

"There's no excuse," Yeo said. "It just can't keep happening. There's no excuse."

And once again, after the early hole was created, the team rebounded to play better hockey in the second period. But Varlamov, who now has two shutouts in his last four starts, was insurmountable.

"We got behind the eight-ball again and then decided to play," said Heatley. "We're used to it this year. I don't know how many line combos there've been, but it really doesn't matter at this point."

While the Avalanche are solidly in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, the Wild remain in 12th place, and are now nine points back 8th-place Dallas.

Turning point

With Niklas Backstrom on the shelf for a few weeks, emergency call-up Matt Hackett was making his first-ever start in Minnesota and was certainly looking to start strong. It took the Avalanche all of 102 seconds to ruin that plan. With traffic in front of Hackett, Twin Cities native Peter Mueller snapped off a low shot that the goalie kicked out with a right pad save, but the rebound bounced right to McGinn, who slammed it in for the eventual game-winner. It was the fifth consecutive game in which the Wild have allowed the first goal within the first three minutes.

"We came in here and we started the game on time, which was key," said Avs coach Joe Sacco. "The first 10 minutes were real good."

Numbers game

• 1: Career multi-goal games for Jamie McGinn.
• 7: Consecutive games in which the Wild have allowed the first goal.
• 44: Players who have suited up for the Wild this season, a team record, after newly-acquired defenseman Steven Kampfer played on Sunday.
• 2/08/2002: The last time the Avalanche shut out the Wild in Minnesota.

Health watch

Cal Clutterbuck left the game for a few minutes in the second period, after Avs right wing David Jones gave him a glove to the face. Clutterbuck collapsed to the ice near the Avs net, then gingerly made his way to the bench and headed straight to the locker room. He made it just a few steps down the tunnel before collapsing again, face-first, and was helped up by trainers.

He returned to the ice later, and played a total of 14:42. Justin Falk left the game in the first period and did not return. Yeo said he has a lower body injury.

Summary

First period
Avalanche - Jamie McGinn 13 (Mueller, Elliott), 1:42
Avalanche - McGinn 14 (Mueller, Elliott), 8:25, PPG

Second period
No scoring

Third period
No scoring

Shots: Wild 11-11-8-30; Avalanche 17-10-9-36. Saves: Wild, Matt Hackett (34-36); Avalanche, Semyon Varlamov (30-30). Power plays: Wild 0-for-3, Avalanche 1-2.

Three stars
1. Seymon Varlamov
2. Matt Hackett
3. Jamie McGinn

Coming up

Then Wild get another crack at the Avalanche right away, traveling to Denver for a Tuesday night game at the Pepsi Center. It's the start of a two-game road trip in which they'll also play in Phoenix on Thursday, before coming home for five straight games in St. Paul.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for 1500ESPN.com. He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers
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